Portfolio-based Assessment: A Reconsideration of Student Assessment Beyond Exams and Quizzes

Manneke BUDIMAN
Academic Development and Learning Resources, Universitas Indonesia

Manneke discusses portfolio-based assessment – what it is, how it is implemented, what impact it has on learning. Manneke was a panelist for the GRO-CDTL Webinar Series on topics such as assessment and providing teaching and learning support during challenging times.

Photo courtesy of Ihsan Aditya from Pixabay

What is portfolio-based assessment?

Portfolio-based assessment is an assessment method that does not rely on exams or quizzes. Rather, it is part of a project-based course in which students are given a detailed, specific “mission” to accomplish by the end of the term, with clear articulation of expectations in fulfilment of learning outcomes.

This type of assessment is one of the most suitable responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, where most lessons and assessments have moved online. However, many teachers are anxious about how to do the assessment online, particularly with regard to the level of security of online assessment and students’ adherence to exam integrity. This is because we all know that there is never a fully effective means of guaranteeing that cheating will not occur.

Portfolio-based assessment frees teachers from such an anxiety. It also frees students from the psychological burden of having to sit for an exam under the scrutiny of the teacher from their laptop camera. More importantly, this type of assessment creates a non-threatening atmosphere for students as they know that they will not be assessed solely on the result but also the learning process. Thus, a sense of responsibility, trustworthiness, and independence can also be built along the way.

How do we implement portfolio-based assessment?

The most important requirements for a portfolio-based assessment to be successful are,

  • first, clearly formulated and measurable learning outcomes, and
  • secondly, well-prepared and detailed tasks that are directly in line with the expected learning otucomes.

These requirements are absolutely essential since students will have a large amount of freedom to find their own ways and resources to fulfill the tasks, as well as to decide the kinds of products they want to create or showcase, in order to demonstrate that they have acquired the competencies stated in the expected learning outcomes.

Ideally, students work in groups and are encouraged to utilise appropriate online learning tools and technologies available, such as Google Suite, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp group chat, and others. Teachers will be able to monitor, observe, and even participate in group work conducted on Google Drive, for instance, and students could upload the final results of their projects on multiple platforms, such as podcasts, YouTube channels, personal vlogs or blogs, and on Instagram.

The portfolio could contain various electronic files, including audio and video files that provide evidence of their learning process and also the outcomes of the process. Students could also be asked to write a reflective essay on the whole learning process itself: what they have gained, what problems they faced during the process and how they solved them, how they measure their own achievements in terms of the expected learning outcomes, and what they will be able to do with the skills acquired from the process. It could be in the form of a photo-essay, a podcast audio recording, or a video recording that makes the reflection visual.

What is the impact?

Portfolio-based assessment helps the student to realise each stage in the learning process and reflect on it. Learning becomes a truly enriching and rewarding experience as students no longer have to be preoccupied by exams which can cause them much stress, which may rob them of the opportunity to experience fun in their learning.

It also gives students the opportunity to build a range a soft skills, from planning, teamwork, and independence to self-confidence, self-management, and creativity, all of which will be essential when students graduate and have to compete in the job market.

Manneke BUDIMAN is currently Director of Academic Development and Learning Resources at Universitas Indonesia (UI). Prior to this appointment, he was the Vice-Dean for Academic, Research, and Student Affairs at the Faculty of Humanities UI. He teaches literature and cultural studies in the Literature Department at the Faculty of Humanities UI. 

Manneke can be reached at manneke.budiman@gmail.com.